Professor David Hunter, 
rheumatology clinician-researcher regarded as world authority in osteoarthritis.

Arthritis New Zealand has responded to the release of research showing increasing demand for knee replacement surgery by strongly advocating for early intervention programmes that can reduce this demand.

“More and more surgery is not the answer” stated Philip Kearney CEO of Arthritis New Zealand.

Surgery can be avoided through well supported early intervention that include access to physiotherapy, dieticians, psychologists and sleep specialists.

Concern at current management of osteoarthritis in this country, led Arthritis New Zealand to invite Professor David Hunter, a world expert in osteoarthritis and a trailblazer in its management to visit New Zealand last month. Professor Hunter was a key advisor in the development of the New South Wales Managing Osteoarthritis Chronic Care programme – a programme which saw a reduction in surgical waitlists for joint replacement.

Physiotherapy New Zealand (PNZ) CEO, Sandra Kirby, agrees that “New Zealand should follow the international evidence and at least subsidise, if not fully fund, physiotherapy for people with osteoarthritis. Early intervention makes economic sense and keeps people healthier.”

The result in New South Wales was achieved by providing access to funded non-surgical interventions. Clinical staff and health care services are provided to support self-management through the development of individual plans for long term behaviour change, such as exercise programmes and weight reduction. This programme has significant implications for how the treatment of osteoarthritis in New Zealand can be significantly improved – (information on this programme is attached).

It is not just enough to tell people to lose weight and exercise more – we need to develop tailored programmes for people in the early stages of osteoarthritis to prevent them needing joint replacement in the future. For every dollar of these intervention programmes it “saves” $5.

Arthritis New Zealand and PNZ advocate the immediate adoption and funded support of such programmes as the only sustainable pathway for management of osteoarthritis.

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